Surrender to the Devil(Scoundrels of St. James,Book 3)(9) by Lorraine Heath
Ah, God, she wished she hadn’t said anything, but Jack was one of her best friends. Unfortunately she suddenly realized some things shouldn’t be shared, but who else was there for her to ask? She certainly couldn’t ask Catherine, when her brother was the one causing Frannie’s dilemma. “I don’t want to say. Forget I even brought it up.”
He flung himself back against the seat. “Greystone, the bastard.”
“What? No! Why would you think him?”
Leaning forward again, he took her hands. “Frannie darling, I’m a man. I saw the way he eyed you, as though you were a delectable morsel that would satisfy a man’s hunger. He disappeared for a bit. You were gone for a while. I’m thinking he took advantage of the opportunity and during a clandestine moment he made his indecent proposal.”
It hadn’t felt indecent. As a matter of fact, she’d been quite flattered, but then she’d also been lightheaded and lost in a passionate fog, following his heat-searing kiss. But what really astounded her was Jack’s description of the way Greystone had been looking at her with hunger that she could satisfy. She’d had men leer at her, had them look at her as though she were fine crystal that could easily crack, but never with hunger. It was quite exhilarating. She squeezed Jack’s fingers. “Would it be so wrong, do you think—to entertain the notion of being someone’s lover? I’ve been a thief, a whore—”
“It was not your choosing to be a whore,” he ground out.
“A man paid for me, Jack. Call it what you will, I’ve never freely given myself to a gentleman. I’m nearly thirty, years past the age when most ladies marry. Until Luke asked for my hand in marriage, I’d never given any thought to being a wife. I can’t see myself married.”
“Why ever not? Jim would marry you in a heartbeat. So would I, for that matter, if I didn’t think you deserved far better than me.”
She gave him a wry smile. “Jack Dodger getting married? I don’t quite see that happening.”
As though to further his argument, he reminded her, “He’s a duke.”
Jack knew the discomfort she experienced around the aristocracy. They all did. It was the reason they’d circled around her at Luke’s. “That would be a problem if I had plans to marry him—which I do not. Lovers are private, a secret sin, aren’t they? I wouldn’t have to move about in his world.”
“The answer to your earlier question is no. No love exists between lovers. You’re likely to get very badly hurt, Frannie, and I’d feel responsible because you have a skewed view of the world from working at Dodger’s. I provide men with a safe place to engage in sin, but I don’t want them sinning with you. Besides, any decent man would be fortunate to have you for a wife. You shouldn’t settle for less.”
With a nod, she worked her hands free of his and sat back against the seat. “I suppose it wasn’t truly a compliment he was paying me.”
“No, it wasn’t,” he said tartly.
“I daresay I probably should have slapped him.”
She sighed and gazed back out the window. The problem was that all she’d really wanted to do was to kiss him again. To want to be so close to a man was a new and exhilarating experience. Pity was she couldn’t stop thinking about it, and the more she thought about it, unfortunately, the more she wanted it.
Sterling knew the hour was fast approaching when everything that had been within his grasp would be beyond his reach.
Sitting in his library, drinking his brandy, listening as the incessantly loud clock on the mantel marked the passage of his life, he tamped down the raw fury that threatened to erupt. Anger required energy he could ill afford to squander. Not now. Later perhaps, when he had nothing better to do except reflect on how much better life might have been if only…
He’d been determined not to have regrets, and yet they hovered near, waiting to make their presence known. He would reflect on them later as well.
Meanwhile, he was obsessed with filling up his reservoir of memories. He had one more he desperately wanted to add to his treasure trove. A night with her might very well be his crowning glory, his last indulgence, his final bit of wickedness before he turned his attention to duty. He had little doubt she would be worth delaying the inevitable course of his life.
She was slender, but something about her made her appear larger than she was—as though she’d battled life’s disappointments and known the taste of victory. Being a commoner, she was not the sort a man such as himself considered taking to wife. But as a lover, he had a feeling she would excel.
Closing his eyes, he brought forth images from their encounter in the library. Her fingers had run up into his hair. Her mouth had played skillfully over his. Her delicate rose scent had wafted around him, and even now he could still smell her fragrance lingering in his clothes. He wanted her fragrance lingering in his bed. It had been so very long since he’d actually anticipated holding a woman in his arms, and she hadn’t disappointed.
He could hardly fathom now that he’d actually propositioned her, had suggested they become lovers. Her bold answer, before she’d turned on her heel and waltzed out, had stunned him.
“I’ll consider your offer.”
Did she mean it? Or was she teasing him? It was a strange game they were playing. She was the devil masquerading as a seductress. Or at the very least she was a witch, because she’d cast a spell over him that he was unable to escape. He was obsessed with the softness of her skin, the green of her eyes, the vibrant red of her hair. He wanted to kiss her again, wanted to slowly peel off her clothes and reveal all the hidden treasures. He’d seen much during his travels, but nothing had ever held his interest as she did. Would she come around? Would her answer be yes? How could she refuse a duke?
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